“Bad neighbors are pests, good ones a blessing. A good neighbor is a boon to him who has one. If your neighbor is honest, your ox is safe.” Hesiod, Works and Days
We would do well to think in terms of neighbors: who they are, and how to be one.
There are many things that Hesiod might have said in honor of a good neighbor, or in condemnation of a bad one. In ancient Greece an ox was the central instrument for working the land–especially in households that did not have slaves. In a word, the ox was indispensable to the life of the household.
And with good neighbors, your ox is safe. Safe not only from disappearing, your ox is practically assured of good health and long life. Help and support, yeah even perhaps a replacement, are always close at hand–just as a neighbor himself is always close at hand, as the very word ‘neighbor’ means. Hesiod thought of neighbors as a pivotal part of life. An unsafe ox means an unstable household, and life.
It’s hard these days to know how to think in terms of neighbors. Our living conditions tend to be transient and ill-arranged for real contact with those where we live. Similarly those with whom we work often do not live near us. In both cases our limited contact makes it difficult to live as true neighbors.
Being neighbors and being friends are not the same thing. But they have much in common, especially in what they demand of us. Being a neighbor requires acting like a friend, even toward one who is not a friend.
Good neighbors are a blessing, and it is incumbent on us to seek and cultivate neighborly relationships. Indeed it is within our reach to be this unique blessing, rather than the opposite, to those among whom live.
Photo credit: Unknown; I couldn’t resist it.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
“Peace is the tranquility of order.” St. Augustine, The City of God There are few words that exercise such a power over our hearts, and our imagination. A few years ago I was giving a lecture at a division-one university, introducing students to some basic points in...read more
When I was down beside the sea A wooden spade they gave to me To dig the sandy shore. Robert Louis Stevenson, At the Sea-Side A Child's Garden of Verses There is nothing quite like playing alone. To watch it is a privilege. Indeed, in watching one might even...read more
For not only that we might act, but even when we intend to do nothing, we prefer sight, as we may say, to all the other senses. Aristotle, Metaphysics This year the fireflies have been stunning. Last night my wife and I were mesmerized; we just sat and looked. And we...read more
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. Bacon from Acorns springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.